Mechanical Menagerie #12: Stronger Than Nukes

Kinetic Bombardment

Nuclear weapons. Whatever your opinions you have to admit that they are an extremely dangerous threat to the planet. Even if 20 were to be used the death toll and subsequent fallout would be horrific. At first they started at several kilotons in power but average nuclear weapons have far surpassed them. By now, we are all acutely aware of the sheer power hidden within these devices, capable of wiping a city off the dirt it stands on and turning it to dust. But let’s say you want that power without the radiation bit and sized down. This is where we find ourselves.

Credit: astromicwm (it’s from the History channel)

To destroy a building or bunker you would probably pick explosives and set them up on the ground or drop them from a plane. The recent testing of the MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) by the US military in Afghanistan surprised some due to its destructive potential but it’s been around for a while now. Invented in 2002 it is the largest bomb that can be made which is non-nuclear… or at least it was until the Russians developed the FOAB (Father Of All Bombs) in 2007, reportedly four times the strength of the MOAB. Neither has really been deployed much as smaller explosives are far cheaper to use. However, their capabilities are limited and don’t even approach the scope of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are more than 1,000 times more powerful because the gap in power between chemical and nuclear reactions is just too large. This is where we move to kinetic weapons.

There’s been a large buzz going around regarding the usage of weapons such as these however it doesn’t seem to stem from any new technology but rather a report on the activity of a recent weapons test. In 2013 the U.S. Air Force 846th Test Squadron tested a kinetic weapon which achieved the speed of 3,500 ft/s (or 3 x speed of sound). This was equally capable to the MOAB and FOAB due to the power of gravity plus density but it’s conception as an idea is old. Kinetic bombardment has been a popular weapon in science fiction for a long time due to its easy usage. Sitting in your spaceship, you just need to grab a large rock and throw it at a planet. It carries the same weight as an apocalypse scenario where a meteor strikes the Earth. It requires little ingenuity since you’re not developing a bomb; you’re developing a transportation system. However we’re not in the future quite yet so in lieu of giant rock, tungsten rods are developed to be dropped from airplanes or even from outer space in order to gain the speed so that their impact will be more powerful. This is what I meant when I said that bombs needed to be sized down. We’re not trying to destroy the planet, just a bunker. In order for us to accomplish this without explosives you need a projectile which travels at high speeds, gathering kinetic energy, to bombard an area; hence, kinetic bombardment. The comparison to nukes comes up when they are sized up to destroy a city.


If you’d like a fantastical depiction of this you can look up the scene from G.I. Joe: Retaliation where the U.S. President (really an undercover operative for Commander Cobra) deploys this weapon. It is a solid rod launched from a satellite into the heart of London, wiping the city away. Of course, in reality, weapons are not allowed in space and the capabilities for such a weapon are still years away. However it is a useful concept. A satellite can be moved anywhere with no deterrent and no method of stopping the projectile. Whether we start using these weapons or go back to good old nukes, I cannot say. I only know that we have yet to scratch the surface of how effective we can kill each other and the everlasting quest to do so will only be a guide to future militaries and politicians.



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Russia’s Future Armor

Russia’s futuristic military armor, called Ratnik-3, has had an upgrade for nuclear resistance as well as other unique features presented in an update from its detail-light debut.


BAE Drones

Credit: BAE Systems

BAE Systems has developed smaller UAVs, represented by the infamous Predator and Reaper drones, called Adaptable UAVs. They can switch between fixed and rotary wing configurations and adapt to meet unique battle situations. They’re also fairly small and can be recovered by having them dock on a pole, reminiscent in sight to a child’s game. However, as is the case with emerging technologies, I’ll be waiting for a real world demonstration.


For more articles related to technology go to Mechanical Menagerie and check out my other pages for excellent content on science, technology, history and more!




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